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Sudden Infant Death Syndrome- Another "Perfect Storm"?- This is an Email that I sent to an MD who contacted me about my "theories" on serotonin and seasonal illness. She pointed out that SIDS occurs most frequently in the winter and wondered whether I had done any extra reading about sudden death syndrome, the cause for which is still considered unknown. My response covers the seasonal aspects of neurological disease as well as other key points in the development of tragic conditions like SIDS, autism, epilepsy, and cancer.  

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome- Another "Perfect Storm"?

The following is an Email I sent to an MD who wrote to me about SIDS, asking my ideas about the seasonal variation of this tragic condition. She noted that the highest incidence of sudden infant death syndrome occurred in winter, when our brain's serotonin levels are their lowest, and was inquiring as to whether I had related this normal phenomenon to SIDS. Having done some reading on SIDS a number of years ago, I was prepared to give her an answer, which follows:



Hi Dr. (Smith),


It was great to hear from you. I am always excited to hear from those in the medical profession, especially those who don’t think I’m an absolute nutcase. LOL  Thankfully, I have never received a derogatory Email from an MD, which still amazes me except for the fact that the vast majority of the information on my site is based on solid scientific research and knowledge. It simply contains information that many of us weren’t taught in veterinary or medical school. Most of what I talk and write about these days was dug out during my celiac discovery days over the last 10 years. What an amazing time. Suddenly, medicine made perfect sense for the first time in my career.


I have done some extracurricular reading on SIDS, most of which took place early on as I was studying the origins of neurodegenerative diseases like MS, Alzheimer's, and Parkinson's as well as autism and epilepsy. So many similarities kept popping up, including the seasonality of disease. I am no longer surprised to find that things like seizures, MS attacks and SIDs occur when they do during the year.


The time between mid January and April 1st is an amazing thing to behold, as the serotonin and D3 levels bottom out, our immune system hits the trough, and the residential organisms (e.g. neurotropic viruses and pleomorphic/cell wall deficient bacteria) flare up like clockwork. In nature, it is called the survival of the fittest, isn’t it? Those who survive this gauntlet get to see another spring and reproduce. Humans experience the same gauntlet but it is even worse due to the constant barrage of insults (e.g. environmental pollutants and inappropriate diets) we are throwing at our tissues and the organisms that inhabit them.


The “circadian rhythm” of viruses and bacteria is one of the most fascinating things I’ve seen, almost as interesting as the fact that most immune-mediated diseases affect our left side more frequently than our right. And just as this left-sided tendency now helps me to see that some conditions once labeled as “idiopathic” are actually immune-mediated (such as collagen-related disorders like ACL ruptures…usually left knee), the seasonal incidence of disease now points me in the direction of viruses and pleomorphic bacteria, which rise and fall like the tides during certain times of the year. The recent Swine flu “epidemic” was a good example, occurring spring then recurring in fall. It’s what these “bugs” do. They then recur in what I now call “the trough”- the time of the year when our (and our pet’s) immunity reaches its lowest point, which is right now (January to April). Spring and fall are loaded with various triggers (allergens, pollutants) while winter is mostly about the immunosuppression that accompanies short days, low D3 levels, cold weather, inactivity, and erratic sleep, partly owing to low serotonin levels.


SIDs is incredibly sad of course but quite fascinating when we look at the current knowledge we have about it through the eyes of everything else I have researched over the last 10 years. I look at SIDS as a “peripheral neuropathy”…an acute malfunction of the respiratory centers in the brain stem, the infantile version of central apnea seen in adults. I have read all about the supine vs. prone sleeping positions in infants and now understand, in using the supine sleeping approach, we have done the same thing we did in other medical conditions- “prescribe an aspirin for a headache caused by a brain tumor”. Effective in relieving symptoms but it obviously does not eliminate the problem.


So, what does cause SIDS? What if there is a neurotropic virus (e.g. a Herpes virus, such as simplex or EBV, or a paramyxovirus) or a pleomorphic bacteria (e.g. a mycoplasma) in the neurons of the respiratory center just waiting to be activated like those of the hippocampus in epilepsy or the peripheral nerves in shingles/Bell’s palsy? What would contribute to the acute onset of this syndrome, especially in winter?


1)   Being bottle fed. We know that bottle fed infants have a considerably higher rate of SIDS than breast fed. For one, breast milk (especially the initial 5 days) is not only loaded with antibodies but also contains high levels of sialic acid, the essential sugar that acts as a protectant of neurons against insults, such as those from viruses and lectins. Not receiving mother’s milk can be devastating to the brain, can’t it? But unfortunately, mother’s milk can also contain food lectins (e.g. from gluten, casein, soy and corn) that can be damaging to the brain and other tissues, explaining a sensitized infant’s intolerance to mother’s milk. In other words, celiac and casein-intolerant mothers must be very careful about what they eat, in the pre and postnatal periods.

2)   Being born in winter. As pointed out, the incidence of SIDS is highest in winter, during which time the serotonin and D3 levels are their lowest, not only in the child but in the mother of that child. If the mother is D3 deficient, it follows that the child will be. Thankfully, we now know just how important D3 is to the brain and immune system and how common (pandemic in proportion) D3 deficiencies are in humans. I don’t know many Caucasians who get a full hour of sunlight on 40% of their body three times per week. And Black Americans need more than that. (And dogs and cats need even more than that). Being an essential neurohormone and a “vitamin” that is crucial to immune health, if there is a microorganism lurking in the brain stem (which there are), then a D3deficiency would be double problem. Serotonin is a powerful anti-inflammatory agent as well as a moderator of the neurotransmitter glutamate. A deficiency in this vital hormone could lead to excessive inflammation once the virus/bacteria is activated as well as excitotoxicity, including that which would stem from glial cell dysfunction (induced by the dietary lectins of cow’s milk, corn and soy in formulas or those three plus gluten in mother’s milk) or the excessive glutamate content of the formulas and/or mother’s milk themselves. Soy formulas are loaded with glutamic acid and estrogens as are cow milk formulas. But cow milk formulas also contain casomorphins, food opioids that suppress neurons, including those of the respiratory centers. Beta casomorphin 7 (BCM7) from cow milk (A1 cattle) have been shown to be 10 times more powerful than morphine. No wonder we recommend a glass of warm milk for those with sleeping difficulties or to a whiney baby before putting them down for a nap. Could the BCM7 help suppress the already diseased respiratory centers?

3)   Sleeping in the prone position. As the studies have shown, infants that sleep on their stomach have a higher rate of SIDS***. However, most studies do not cite why. There are two explanations that come immediately to my mind after my reading: 1) Neurotoxic gases being emitted from plastic mattress covers (e.g. the sickening smell we detect when we un-package an inflatable raft) triggering toxic reactions in the brain/brainstem; and 2) Neurotoxic elements such as bromide in flame retardant bedding, clothing, toys and drapery that suppress neuronal function in the brain/brainstem (thus bromides use an anticonvulsant). Similarly, it has been postulated that bromide-based flame retardant products are partly responsible for the sudden rise in autism over the past 20 years. Could these and other elements (molds, fabric and plastic softeners, arsenic and other flame retardants) be some of the reasons why putting babies on their backs lessens the incidence but does not eliminate SIDS altogether? The concentration of these elements would be greater when placed face down.


(***But they also suffer from delayed learning and development)


4)  Cigarette smoke. Most articles on SIDS cite exposure to cigarette smoke as a major contributing factor to an increased incidence of SIDS. This helps to support the notion of SIDS being a toxin-induced syndrome. What kind of underlying agents would react to the toxins in cigarettes? Viruses and pleomorphic bacteria are known for their reaction to the carcinogens in tobacco, leading to metaplasia (cells changing forms/precancerous changes) and ultimately cancer. It is clear that viruses and bacteria hate cigarettes. Does this epidemiological finding support the idea that viruses and/or pleomorphic bacteria residing in the central nervous system are responsible for SIDS? Does the lack of D3 and low serotonin levels that are present during the winter raise the likelihood of these organisms and the inflammation they create getting out of control during the short days from November to April, particularly from January to late March? (Note: British psychiatrists label January 26th as the most depressing day of the year, which makes sense knowing that our brain serotonin levels have bottomed out, with December 19-21st being the shortest days of the year.)

5)  Vaccinations. Sadly, the modified live viruses and adjuvants in vaccines have been shown to trigger numerous medical problems, with none being more dramatic than those found in the central nervous system (e.g. autism, epilepsy) and immune systems (e.g. vaccine induced lupus, GBS, and lymphoma). The first vaccine (Hep B) is given at birth. But the majority of SIDs occurs after day 24 and between day 364 (the post-neonatal period), following numerous other vaccines, including some that contain well-known neurotropic viruses. The adjuvants alone are enough to cause concern, especially when there are pre-existing, residential organisms in place. Some are acquired prenatally- both vertically (in the DNA) and horizontally (transplacental)- while other are acquired during the birthing process itself (e.g. Herpes, mycoplasma, Chlamydia). We know that the adjuvants in vaccines are fully capable of activating latent infections while modified live viruses can cause aspects of the very disease they were designed to prevent. Over the years in veterinary medicine, we have seen vaccine-induced distemper and rabies from the use of MLVs as well as latent disease triggered by killed vaccines (e.g. vaccine-induced sarcoma, caused by the residential feline sarcoma vaccine). The precedent for both modified live and killed vaccines triggering neurological, immune-mediated and neoplastic disease is well-established.


In summary, I believe that SIDS is another “perfect storm” situation, paralleling the one occurring in autism? It certainly appears so from what I’ve read. But like so many other conditions (epilepsy, cancer, “autoimmune diseases”), the basic “cause” is likely to be a microorganism (virus and/or bacteria) that is being triggered by a toxin, with a failure of the immune system contributing to the course and outcome of the “disease”. For example, we know that carcinogens alone do not cause cancer. We must have the organism(s) in the DNA and mitochondria that trigger the cell into dividing, such as retroviruses and pleomorphic bacteria, respectively. But that alone is not enough- we must have some degree of immune failure, either local or generalized, for the cancer to occur, explaining why people with familial cancer (in their DNA) who are exposed to carcinogens from birth (pollution, cigarettes, fluoride) can be cancer-free for the better part- if not all- of their life. The onset of some degree of immune failure determines when the cancer will occur, doesn’t it?


Similarly, the onset of SIDS can occur at any time from the neonatal period (up to 24 days) through the end of the post-neonatal period (up to 364 days) and beyond. Why the wide range, especially in a condition with an “unknown” cause? The answer either lies in the tolerance of the individual to the triggers, the degree of exposure to the insult(s), or the time required for inflammation to get severe enough or the immune system to fail.


Food intolerance is likely to play a major role here, as it has been shown to do in innumerable medical conditions, especially in neurological, immunological and collagen-related disorders. The prenatal effects of celiac disease are dramatic, especially when the mother is gluten intolerant and gestating a celiac child. This would hold true of the other food intolerances as well (casein, soy and corn). We are born fully formed, just not fully developed. The matrix for all organs and supportive structures are formed in the womb. The effects of the maternal malabsorption syndrome (created by food intolerance) on the developing child have only begun to be realized by those in the medical fields. The effects of “opportunistic” organisms (many of which have important primary functions, such as adaptation) when placed in abnormal and unhealthy environments are just now being realized, thanks in part to our newer understanding of pleomorphic bacteria and their interaction with viruses. Add to that the effects of food lectins (e.g. gluten, casein, soy, corn), environmental pollutants (e.g. fluoride, tobacco, bromide), vaccine damage, and other challenges on neurons and every other tissue in the body and it is a wonder that SIDS, epilepsy and autism don’t occur at even higher rates than they do now.


Thank Goodness for the “perfect storm” that is so often required for illness to occur. It is actually much harder for us to become ill than most understand. It is simply that we have made it incredibly easier to succumb through our inappropriate diets, challenging environments, self-destructive lifestyles, and the man-made plagues we’ve generated through the genetic manipulation of nature (including modified live viruses, weaponized mycoplasma, and GMO foods).


The good news: We can turn this around. We “simply” have to identify and eliminate the insults while feeding our body what it needs to stay healthy. Easy to say, not so easy to do. But, all it takes is motivation and understanding. We now have the understanding. How much sicker do we have to become before we will be motivated enough to change things.


As always, I do hope this helps.    




John B. Symes, D.V.M.  (aka "Dogtor J")





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